Oh, Lisbon. You have such a grip on my heart. A city so full of charm and lovely people. The locals here are warm and friendly, so proud of where they come from. And I don’t blame them. Portugal has catapulted to the top of my favorite places right now. In fact, it has been there awhile. I was last here in 2014 for one of my best friend’s weddings on the Algarve. It was then that my love for Lisbon really deepened. I felt so at home and really connected with its energy. An inspiring creative community - so much going on in design, art, architecture - but all in this really refreshing, humble way with no ego. No attitude. Just good people doing really good, interesting things. Not only is it one of Europe’s biggest start-up hubs, but Portugal was also ranked by Forbes as one of the most affordable places to travel this year.
The wine is cheaper than water (true story) and when I am here I tend to drink a lot of the stuff! The Vinho Verde (or green wine), my absolute favourite.There is a cultural and artistic richness in Lisbon. An addictive buzz. Its a big city, yes, but one that feels more like a village. Known as the city of the seven hills, you can pretty much get everywhere on foot (if you are willing to battle a few hills of course) with endless winding cobblestoned streets to explore. I never get far though without stopping a million times over to snap the stunning azulejos (tiles) that cover the walls of churches and decrepit buildings, everywhere you look. It is such a beautiful town. The light is what gets me as well. Such a beautiful, magical light. Dawn, when the streets are quiet…and dusk, when the streets are alive and buzzing with locals and tourists alike often down by the water to watch the sun go down over Cristo and the rest of the town. You will hear the sound of fado wafting through the streets.
Portugal really does have it all. A spectacular coastline, dreamy beaches, delicious local wine, great good (I basically turn into a Portuguese bread and cheese whenever I am here, oh and a sardine), charming hilltop towns, diverse landscapes, and some of the friendliest people I have ever met. There is so much goodness to be found. Here, I update you with some of favorites (including some old favorites that were featured in the guide I published here in 2014)…
First things first, start the day with a pastel de nat (Portuguese tart) and a bica (espresso).
Santa Clara 1728
The most delightful surprise of my recent trip to Lisbon, Santa Clara 1728 has quickly become my favourite place to stay in this magical town. A secret hidden gem in a quiet corner of the city. I had the greatest pleasure of meeting owner João Rodrigues on my visit, as well as his lovely wife Andrea. A beautiful family and an incredible inspiration. I also had the opportunity to sit down with Marta Flourenco - a delightful architect who works with João - to find out more about the ‘Silent Living’ project she has been brought in to run. Silent Living was born out of a need to find a language between all of João’s (and Portuguese architect Manuel Aires Mateu) projects - a way to understand what they all have in common to then be able to reflect this in new projects going forward as well. The beauty João and Manuel’s work is that it goes far beyond just the architecture itself - it is not just the architecture that speaks to you - it is the people, the environment, the simplicity, and the universal idea of home - people come to their places and are reminded of home; a feeling created by the senses. “The touch in architecture” for example, much more than just the drawing element. All of João’s projects have a strong sensory power that influencers the guests. Another of his properties, Casas Na Areia for example, with its sand on the floor makes you feel instantly relaxed - the sand slows you down. On entering Santa Clara you feel a difference in the acoustics, it is so quiet. You notice the connection with the open kitchen - and this feeling must be strong - the smell of fresh bread baking, or a cake - it helps remind guests of home.
The meat comes from their farm, Casa no Tempo, and they use only local supplies. A common goal of keeping the experience as connected to nature as possible. Joao forever tries to respect and be faithful to nature wherever possible -paying homage to all things local and original. Casas na Areia for example was inspired by local fisherman houses, acting as a memory of an architype. Cabanas no Rio honours the simplicity of the fisherman’s life, connecting you 100% with the surroundings. Casa no Tempo is a modern interpretation of the traditional Alentejo-style house. The 18th century Santa Clara building was acquired by João back in 2012 - it was a delapidated/abandoned family house and Joao was determinded to remain faithful to the home’s heritage. He wanted to build another family house but had no intention of actually living there himself. That changed however and now João, Andrea and their four children live on the top floor. It is a unique and beautiful project. The interiors are stunning, simple. Local materials are used - in the stone (Lioz stone from Sintra), in the wooden floors, in the wardrobes (same finish as walls/ceiling - to unify), and the baths/basins which were sculpted from stone - the floor tile in the shower is just one tile (the tiler didn't want to do it, but Joao convinced him and he was so happy with the result). Each object/every detail has a story. This is design that inspires, in every sense. These ‘Silent Living’ projects really touch the maker, the owner and the guest. It is incredibly beautiful here.
For boutique budget…try The Independente. Affirming Portugal’s reputation as having the best budget accommodation in Europe, these neighboring late-19th-century mansions, in a premium location on the border of the Bairro Alto & Principe Real districts, were stylishly converted in 2011. With views over the Tagus River, this lovely hotel is full of classical features – big shuttered windows, high ceilings, vintage furniture, stained-glass windows, floors laid with traditional Portuguese Azelujos, and wrought-iron balconies. Choose from a private suite or dorm (where the bunk beds are custom-made from chipboard). We stayed in one of the private suites, which was colorful, bright and spacious. Breakfast is served each morning on the sunny rooftop terrace, with fabulous views over the city. You will no doubt meet Lurdes – the happiest of happy characters who runs the kitchen. An amazing leading light who made our time at the Independente all the more memorable. There is also a stylish in-house restaurant on the ground floor – Decadente – with a modern Portuguese menu, cosy atmosphere and beautiful outdoor courtyard.
For high-end historical luxury that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else …try the Palacio Belmonte, a 15th century palace-turned-guest house. Tucked away in the streets of Alfama, right up by the Castelo de São Jorge (atop the highest hill in Lisbon), this enchanted Palace-style accommodation is run by charismatic Frenchman Frédéric Coustols (an artist and landscape collector) and his adorable (5th) wife, Maria. Built in 1449, this is the most antique building in all of Portugal. Filled with over 38000 18th century Portuguese tiles (the blue of which adds to a complete sense of calm, stillness and ventilation), Roman foundations, seventh-century Moorish brick ceilings, antique furniture, spectacular reading and dining areas, private rooftop terraces, a swimming pool and spectacular garden, and an open bar from 5pm each evening…this is the most exquisite urban oasis, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon city life below.
We were fortunate enough to enjoy a sunny breakfast with Frédéric on the terrace one morning, to hear how his connection with the Palace came about. It was on a visit to Lisbon many years ago that Frédéric saw the house and with intrigue, asked about it at the hotel he was staying. The very next day, without even going inside, he made an offer to buy it. A successful sale (he paid over 24million euro), it was not until 6 months later that he paid his first visit to the house. Counting 365 windows at that time, he suddenly thought “this is a little bigger than I expected” – he tells us, with a cheeky smile.
Living in France at the time, Frédéric went to the city hall in Lisbon to ask if the property could be divided up, where he was asked “why don’t you do a hôtel de charme?”. And it was on this whim, that he decided he would. When asked if he had experience as a hotelier, he chuckles again and tells us “no, we didn’t know anything about that”!
We were lucky enough to sleep in the 160m2 palace suite, which has a winter garden and terrace, on top of a Muslim tower of the 8th century. With views over the Alfama district out to the water, sleeping within the Palace walls was like stepping back in time.
The Palace has had many lives – it is the only building that survived ‘The Great Lisbon Earthquake’ of 1755 – and it is because of this that Frederic has such a passion for sustainability. As he told us “houses today can’t have this many different lives’. He recently spoke at a sustainability conference in Granada around tourism, and the need to protect historical districts to find a balance between providing tourists a special experience, while protecting the city at the same time.
With just 10 suites, it is not hard to see why 70% of guests are returning guests. This is a very, very special place, with Frédéric and Maria adding miles to that charm. As Frédéric once said, "I have traveled the world for fifteen years,". "Belmonte represents every luxury I didn't find. Principally peace. And beauty." It’s so beautiful here.
Another goodie by my friends at Kiwi Collection – the world’s largest independent collection of luxury hotels - the location of this spectacularly restored 19th-century palace was one of the highlights for me. Set amongst some incredibly beautiful gardens the hotel is tucked away in a quiet residential corner of Lisbon near the River Tagus. Not only a hotel, the Pestana Palace is also one of Portugal’s National Monuments. The old palace building itself is quiet incredible. I spent an hour wandering through the building marveling at all the intricacies of the design and the opulent furniture and artwork. Unfortunately the hotel rooms are not in this old palace building but rather in a couple of large new accommodation wings that were built in more recent times. The hotel is definitely on the bigger side, so it you are looking for more of a boutique experience I would suggest booking Santa Clara or Palacio Belmonte instead, but if you prefer a hotel with a lot of space and many facilities (pool, day spa etc) than perhaps this is the one for you. Another highlight was the Pestana Palace’s close proximity to the LX Factory (where I would walk to each morning for my coffee from Wish House). And the breakfasts! They were incredible - a great selection and a stunning palace room from which to enjoy it.
Principe Real - garden and shopping square (at one of the highest points of the city):
Officina LIsboa - for shoes produced exclusively in portugal
Embaixada - concept store in a stunning old building
Cevicheria - one of lisbon’s hottest restaurants right now serving delicious ceviche
Yoyo Objects - design store - mainly furniture and lighting - from portuguese designers
Chocolateria Equador - 100% handmade chocolate saved in beautifully-designed pakcaging inspired by the 40s and 50s
Bairro Alto - neighboughood - full of traditional shops, restaurants and bars - known for its typical portuguese lifestyle during he day and bohemian atmosphere by night.
Praca Luis de Camoes - a very iconic square - honoring the famous Portuguese writer and poet Luis Vaz de Camoes - a busy meeting point to the historic area. Home to the famous coffee and pastry shop, A Brasilleira, where portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa used to go frequently.
Also - Loja do Burel - for traditional portuguese fabrics
Livraria Bertrand - considered the oldest bookstore in the world. bertrand is portuguese and opened in 1732.
A Vida Portuguesa - traditional and iconic products of all kind from portugal - gret presents and original souvenirs.
Near Rossio (Praca D. Pedro IV) - monument square - you will find Chapelaria Azevedo Rua - a century-old hat shop like no other - with bows, top hats, caps, berets and more.
Confeitaria Nacional - pastry shop and tea house - one of the most ancient and exquisite pastry shops in Lisbon - perfect for afternoon tea.
Louie Louie - an awesome little record store (which started in Porto) with an in-house espresso bar.
Fashion: check out local designers “La Paz” and “Felipe Oliveira Baptista”.
Principe Real neighbourhood has many cute stores, in particular:
Em Nome da Rosa: for flowers
Isabel Lopes Da Silva: antique store with amazing jewellery (expensive but amazing)
Principe Real Enxovais: for house linen
Consi.go: a lovely little organic store in Estrela.
Sistema Solar: a quiet, independent bookstore in Chiado specializing in art books.
Under the Cover: books and magazines about art, architecture, design, fashion, travel and lifestyle.
Sardines from the Conserveira de Lisboa: with a store in Baixa (Rua dos Bacalhoeiros), and one at the Mercado da Ribeira, come here the most beautifully vintage-packaged tins or sardines. A staple on any Lisbon shopping list, they have been around since 1930s.
Chocolate from ARCÁDIA (Largo Trindade Coelho, 11): in Bairro Alto, this is Portugal’s most famous chocolate brand, created in the city of Porto in 1933. We love the wrapping as much as we love the taste of the chocolate itself. Reminiscent of our favorite Brooklyn-based chocolatier – Mast Brothers. Try the Port wine flavor.
MAAT: Musuem of Art, Architecture and Technology. Definitely worth a visit.
LX Factory: an old industrial site recently converted into a creative hub full of galleries, cafes, bookstores, boutiques etc. Shop here, eat here, hang here.
EDP: the Electricity Museum. I saw an awesome exhibition here in 2014 by Portugal’s most famed street artist, Vhils. (who carves his art out of bricks and walls). Check out what else is showing though, as the building alone is impressive and worth checking out. And keep an eye out for Vhils.’ work on random street corners. One of our favorite pieces can be found on a large wall by the Port.
For hair: check out Griffe Hair Style. An amazing hair salon in Chiado. Owner Helena Vaz Pereira, works for some of the Portuguese fashion houses. For colour ask for Sofia, she is the best.
For a day spa experience: check out the Ritz. Alternatively, the Palacio Estoril Hotel in Estoril is also good.
For gallereis, check out:
Galeria Cristina Guerra
Galeria Francisco Fino
Galeria Murias Centeno
Galeria Pedro Cera
Galeria Vera Cortes
Arco da Rua Augusta - for its beautiful Triumph Arch and views over Tagus River and all the Baixa Pombalina.
Alfama - tradtional neighborhood - the striking portuguese neighbourhood of Fado. The Igreja De Sao Miguel (Alfama’s church) - a beautiful and unique church in the heart of Alfama
Jardim Botanico: for a beautiful botanical garden to sit or wander.
Parque Eduardo VII: a beautiful park to walk around - with great views over the Avenida de Liberdade.
Avenida de Liberdade: one of the most important avenues in lisbon - beautiful buildings filled with beautiful shops.
Praca do Marques de Pombal: monumental square. an iconic place in lisbon, honoring Marques de Pombal, the monarch figure behind the city reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. the urban and architectural style present downtown was made by his vision, and this square unifies the main avenue and the streets of the area.
Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara: an amazing viewpoint, located in the garden of the same name, offering beautiful panoramic views of the city of Lisbon.
Wander around some of our favorite neighborhoods…
- Belem (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Torre de Belem, Padrao dos Descobrimentos, Centro Cultural de Belem (contemporary art museum).
- Principe Real/Bairro Alto: walk down Rua da Escola Politecnica, then Rua D.Pedro V. When you're coming down the hill stop on the left at the 'miradouro' to see the views of the city and have a coffee. There are several 'miradouros' (lookouts) spread around town with spectacular views and cute little cafes and tables outside. Our favorite one (in Alfama) is Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which is located halfway up the hill, at the top of Rua de Augusto Rosa. If not for the view itself, but for the stunning bougainvillea overhead and the gorgeous setting. Also keep a look out for a little hidden oasis on Rua D.Pedro V Nº56-D – the Lost In café.
- Alfama: a very charming, very old part of town (and our favorite). Azulejos (the colored tiles) at every turn. Great photo opportunities.
Chiado/Baixa: perfect to wander around and explore.
Fundacao Calouste - museum and gardens. Come here for the art museum or just the stunning gardens themselves (designed by architect Goncalo Ribeiro Telles). A lovely spot for a walk.
Take the number 28 tram: touristy, but a great little trip.
Outside of Lisbon…
Visit Sintra: one of the most beautiful and poetic places in the world. You will feel as if you are part of a magic fairytale here. Wander around, grab a coffee, do a bit of shopping, take plenty of photos. A few hours here is enough.
Go to the beach in Guincho. Have seafood for lunch at Mar do Inferno. Or drive a little further north to have lunch in Azenhas do Mar - a little cliffside town overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Amazing seafood and stunning views. It’s beautiful here.
Wish Coffee House: at the LX Factory site (an abandoned factory site turned creative hub), serving excellent espresso (by Berlin’s Five Elephant), smoothies and snacks.
Heim Cafe: for coffee and breakfast.
Fabrica Coffee Roasters: for excellent third wave coffee (they roast their own beans). A few locations around town.
Hello, Kristof: in Bairro Alto, a coffee and magazine café with a Scandinavian aesthetic. Beans are roasted locally at Academica Do Café.
The Mill: an Australian/Portuguese cafe doing great espresso drinks (they also roast their own beans as well).
Bettina & Niccolò Corallo: located on a street overlooking the Jardín Botánico de la Universidad de Lisboa, also the site of a weekly farmers' market, in Lisbon's Príncipe Real, Bettina and her son Niccolò run this chocolate-focused café.
Copenhagen Coffee Lab - for seriously good coffee in a minimalist Scando setting.
If you haven't yet, be sure to try a local “bifana" (pork loin in a bread roll), Delicious.
Jose Avillez: basically when it comes to eating in Lisbon if you can remember the name “Jose Avillez” you will be doing fine. Any or all of this young, inspiring chef’s city restaurants are sure to impress. Back in 2014, Cantinho do Avillez had only recently opened and was the food highlight of our trip. Belcanto (now with two Michelin stars - the first Portuguese chef to be given this honour) was his first though and was listed in Restaurant magazine’s “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List” in 2015. Cafe Lisboa (inside the São Carlos National Theatre) and Pizzaria Lisboa are great as well (and have stunning interiors).
Mercado da Ribeira (avenida 24 de julho): an awesome food destination. It opened just a few months before we were there in 2014, and it is still going strong. In fact, we noticed even more food stalls have popped up on our most recent visit in June. Some of our favorite things to lookout for include the tartar from Tartar-ia, the octopus salad from Henrique sa Pessoa, burgers by Honorato, sashimi by Confraria, the tuna sandwich on carob bread (trust me) from SeaMe, and of course, Lisbon’s best gelato from Santini (the coconut flavor is the bomb, and the pineapple too). Check out the wines by Esporao. I love my Vinho Verde (green wine) and you will find a couple of great ones here. If you are wanting some fun little gifts to take home, grab some retro-packaged tins of sardines from the Conserveira de Lisboa. And check out our favorite stand of all – the plants at O Meu Amore e Verde. It’s beautiful there.
Largo ao Tacho: for great smaller share dishes (Portuguese).
Dinner at Os Gazeteiros: a tiny French and local inspired restaurant (with a set menu).
Restaurante Santo Antonio de Alfama: for typical Portuguese food from the best restaurant in Alfama.
For Japanese (and the best sushi in LIsbon) check out Go-Juu - next door to the Fundacao Gulbenkian.
Linha D’Agua - right by the Parque Eduardo VII. A beautiful terrace with delicious food.
For vegetarian, check out: PSI - Resaurante Vegetariano, and Nicolau Lisboa & Co for “green food”.
For seafood: Cervejaria Ramiro: for the city’s absolute best. Hands down. This is a Lisbon institution – loved by tourists and locals alike. Simple, but the best.
For traditional Portuguese, check out:
Pap’açorda: for dinner. This is a Lisbon institution. What was once the ‘it’ place for the media crowd and celebrities around town, Pap’açorda’s décor is simple and understated, and the food is amazing.
For date night:
For fun with friends:
Tágide Wine and Tapas Bar: fun, chilled and great food…always. Located in Chiado, this is a beautiful tapas bar serving excellent small plates and delicious Portuguese wines. Be sure to try the custard tarts (served warm with cinnamon ice cream). A little more pricey, but worth it.
For Pastel de Nata:
Park: this bar on top of a parking garage is the perfect place for a sundowner. Amazing views over Bairro Alto and the river, there are always good tunes, good vibes and a cosy atmosphere on its leafy rooftop terrace. Fun after dinner as well.
The Terrace at Hotel do Bairro Alto: for some of the best views in town. Perfect for a light lunch or a pre-dinner drink. Located between Chiado and Bairro Alto.
Pensao do Amor: an old brothel-turned-cocktail bar. This bar feels like a home, with lots of different little rooms and dark and cosy furniture. It’s the perfect place for an afternoon dinner drink. Live music sometimes. Always busy. Good vibes.
O Bom o Mau e o Vilao: just a few doors down from Pensao do Amor, this is the obvious place to go either before or after a drink there.
Another ultra-cool rooftop space opens in Lisbon. This time in Martim Moniz with extraordinary views of Lisbon, from São Jorge Castle and Mouraria, to the viewpoints of Graça and Senhora do Mont